Jim Bintliff is the man who supplies the mud and its part in baseball. Mud has played its part in baseball for many years. Jim is the only supplier of the mud that is applied to 15 to 18 dozen MLB league baseballs before each game. He is an avid Phillies Phan! He spends his pro offseason time packaging and shipping his Delaware River Mud.
As the baseball season begins, thousands of pearl white baseballs are prepared for their use around the USA. Assistant coaches and attendants at a dozen or more stadiums lather a fine coat of Lena Blackburne Baseball Rubbing Mud on the baseballs that come from Central America, Costa Rica to be exact. A baseball will last about six pitches before it is hit foul, hit over the fence for a homerun, or touches the ground. The umpire removes a ball that is marked in anyway. So the supply of Mud must last a six-month baseball season.
Since 1938 Bintliff’s Lena Blackburne Baseball Rubbing Mud has played a prominent role for major league baseball games. The mud is vital and mysterious and is now part of baseball history.
Jim has said, “There are times when I think, why the hell am I doing this?” He says this just about every opening day. Then he thinks about Babe Ruth or Hank Aaron or Sandy Koufax. Oh yes, he thinks he remembers the big picture. Oh, and his Phighting Phils, Schmidt, Carlton, Ashburn, and Roberts and the Whiz Kids.
This rubbing a pearl baseball began in 1938 when an umpire approached Blackburne, a third base coach for the Philadelphia A’s. The ump had some hard criticism of the conditions of the baseballs in the American League. The umpire considered the condition of the baseballs to be cheating. The balls were raw and he wanted to eliminate the shine. So they used outfield dirt at first.
Blackburn talked about this and thought about it.
He researched the mud along the Delaware River banks in Burlington County, NJ near where he lived. He found a place, a hole, and it remains a secret to this day. He took some of it to the Athletics when he got to the ballpark. After rubbing some of the mud on the baseballs, he showed them to the umpires. The umpires looked at the mud covered balls and could not detect any scent. They replaced the outfield dirt with the Delaware River Mud and so the adventure began.
This mud rub and the Delaware River is a great secret of the game of baseball. The tradition continued into the 1960’s when Bintliff began getting the mud from Blackburne’s secret spot. It is a spot of beach on the river bank. When the tide is low the secret spot is about 20 feet wide and about 100 yards long.
Before Blackburne passed away in 1968, he gave his secret to his best friend, John Haas, who gave the secret to his son-in-law, Burns Bintliff, Jim’s father. Jim Bintliff has been president of the Lena Blackburne Baseball Rubbing Mud since 2000.
HARVESTING THE MUD
DELAWARE RIVER NEW JERSEY
This is a time-tested operation. He collects the mud throughout the Summer and Fall. It is shoveled by hand. Depending on the Delaware River tides, he spends about two hours a day in the prime time gathering the mud that he puts in 30-pound buckets. He works alone.
Bintliff gets approximately 300 pounds of mud that creates about 150 pounds of mud that is used on baseballs. Once it is gathered, the mud is put into barrels and kept five weeks or so. It needs to age before it is packaged. Every MLB team goes through two 32-once containers of mud per season.
The mud does what it is supposed to do and has been in Major League Baseball for 75 years. It is a proven product.
The umpires were, in seasons past, responsible for rubbing the mud on the balls before each game, about 12 dozen. Now teams have people assigned to rub the balls. The rule now is that the umpires make sure the baseballs are rubbed down properly. They need to be not too dark, not too light, but rubbed just right. No pearls in the pros as in the amateur baseball game.
It has now become a tradition and many umpires have agreed that the mud has played its part in baseball.
Delaware River Mud, a baseball tradition, and its part in baseball.
Bintliff hopes the mystery of the mud will fascinate everyone. He hopes that it will be used and bought in stores where High Schools and Colleges will use the Mud. It that where the poem means “no joy in Mudville”? Yes, Casey struck out.
To read more about Bintliff’s Rubbbing Mud go to www.baseballrubbingmud.com.